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EDITIONS
Sunday, 15 April, 2001, 11:24 GMT 12:24 UK
Teachers demand 35-hour week
NUT conference
Teachers want an inquiry into working conditions
By Sean Coughlan at the NUT conference in Cardiff

The biggest teachers' union has voted for industrial action in support of a maximum 35-hour week.

The vote at the National Union of Teachers' conference in Cardiff will lend further weight to an alliance of four teachers' unions which are demanding a fundamental review of pay and conditions.

"This joint action will allow us to put much greater pressure when we negotiate with the government," said the union's general secretary Doug McAvoy, who is now calling for far-reaching talks about teachers' contracts.

But the conference has voted against more militant calls for the immediate resumption of a protest against teacher shortages, which last term forced several schools to send home pupils.


This joint action will allow us to put much greater pressure when we negotiate with the government

Doug McAvoy
In the politics of the teachers' union this represented a significant victory for the union's moderate leadership - with the lifting of the threat of classroom disruption next term.

The campaign for the 35-hour week would only lead to limited industrial action in the autumn if the government refused to enter into another independent inquiry into teachers' working conditions.

Ian Murch, who had called for the return to industrial action suspended on the eve of the conference, said that stopping the action had "snatched defeat from the jaws of victory".

Improvements in pay

But speakers against the resumption of industrial action argued this would have wrecked the "historic" joint union campaign and have left the NUT outside the campaign for the 35-hour week.

The campaign for a reduction in workload is aiming to achieve improvements to pay and conditions for teachers in England and Wales similar to those promised to teachers in Scotland.

Speaking after the debate, Mr McAvoy, said that any enforcement of a 35-hour week would not mean a disruption to pupils' education.

He suggested that a substantial reduction from the current average of over 50 hours for the teachers' working week could be achieved by cutting administrative tasks.

Mr McAvoy suggested that extra non-teaching staff could be taken on to allow teachers to work a shorter week.

And on the apparently diminishing impact of the union's left wing, Mr McAvoy said that the shift towards more joint actions between unions was likely to lessen the influence of "extremists", a move which he welcomed.

  • The joint motion involves the big classroom unions in England and Wales - the NUT, NASUWT, ATL - plus the Welsh teachers' union UCAC.

    Together they represent about half a million teachers.

  •  WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Sue Littlemore in Cardiff
    "It's going to be very difficult to give the unions what they want"
    The BBC's Mike Baker
    "The teacher's unions are poised for a unique, joint campaign"
    See also:

    13 Apr 01 | UK Education
    09 Apr 01 | UK Education
    26 Mar 01 | UK Education
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